WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
BIOGRAPHYSilas Richards was born December 18, 1807 in Highland County, Ohio.
When he was about fifteen years old, the family moved to Shelby County, Ohio, where his father practiced medicine. Silas and his brother, Milton, ran a farm and attended school during the winters.
Silas married Elizabeth McClenahan, daughter of Elijah and Elizabeth McClenahan, on November 5, 1829. They started their married life in a humble way, living for a short time on a rented farm.
In 1835, the Richards moved to Stark County, Illinois where Elizabeth's father had settled three years previously. Silas & Elizabeth bought two hundred acres of rich land and started farming. There they prospered and became people of means. During most of their time there, Silas was a justice of the peace and postmaster.
In 1839, Elder Joshua Grant and other Mormons who had been driven from the State of Missouri the previous year, settled in the area. They held meetings in the Richards house. In the spring of 1840, Silas & Elizabeth were baptized into the Mormon Church by Elder Peter Nichol. A large branch of the Church developed there, including Silas' parents and most of their children. Also some of Elizabeth's brothers and sisters.
In 1844, Silas & Elizabeth exchanged their farm in Stark County for a valuable one near Nauvoo, Illinois, where they moved the following spring. They contributed liberally to the construction of the Nauvoo Temple. On January 22, 1846, Silas was ordained a High Priest by Patriarch John Smith. Soon after this, the Richards were among the first to receive ordinances in the partially completed Temple.
When persecution forced the Mormons to leave Nauvoo, the Richards went with them. Br. Richards, however, was more fortunate than many others, being able to sell his farm (for $800, which one year before was worth $3,000). The family crossed the Mississippi River on May 4, 1846, arriving in Council Bluffs the following June 24th.
Soon after arriving in Iowa, Br. Richards was appointed counselor to Elder Moses Clawson, president of a branch of the Church and counselor to Bishop Daniel Miller. He was also chosen as a member of the High Council in Pottawattamie County. In 1848, he was ordained a Bishop.
In 1849, having prepared to follow the saints to the Great Salt Lake Valley, Br. Richards was appointed a captain by Elder George A. Smith to lead a company across the plains. They left Winter Quarters on July 10, 1849 and arrived in the Salt Lake on October 25th of that year, having had a prosperous journey with but little sickness and only one death.
In the fall of 1849, Silas & Elizabeth settled in Little Cottonwood (about 14 miles southeast of Temple Square on the south side of Little Cottonwood Creek) along with a number of the saints who had crossed the plains in the Richards company. The following year, more settlers arrived and a comfortable school house was built, in which Silas Richards taught school during the winters of 1850-1851 and 1851-1852. Captain Richards was appointed to preside over the settlement immediately upon his arrival. A branch was organized on January 18, 1851 with Silas Richards as presiding Elder. Then on July 13, 1851, the Cottonwood Ward was organized with Elder Richards as Bishop. During the next few years, he assisted in building the fort at Union, for protection against the Indians, and took an active part in the move south at the time of the Johnston Army troubles in 1858.
Bishop Richards served there until early 1864. At that time, he was called to assist in the settlement of Dixie in southern Utah. There he established warehouses in St. George, putting out trees, and starting a vineyard, assisting the people by giving employment to many. Having been advised by Pres. Brigham Young not to move his family, his work in St. George was conducted by Brother B. F. Pendleton.
On November 1, 1869, Elder Richards, in company with about one hundred others, started east on the new Union Pacific Railroad, having been called on a special mission for the winter. He visited relatives and friends in the States, teaching the Gospel whenever the opportunity arose. Richards returned home in the spring of 1870, having done a good work, besides gathering some genealogy of value to himself.
Silas Richards died on March 17, 1884 in Union (formerly Little Cottonwood) where he had lived for so long.
JOURNAL ENTRIES1864: I have nothing in my journal of special note until the October Conference, when I was called with many others to assist the settlements in the south part of the Territory by taking provisions, clothing, goods, money etc. and expending it in improvements, giving employment to the settlers there and to enable them to build up and improve the various settlements there. Make other settlements and develop the possibility and property, improving the country and sustaining themselves. The cultivation of cotton and tropical and other fruits, being the strongest motives. (Especially Washington and St. George and to form other settlements farther down the Virgin River.)
November 19, 1864: I started south on my mission, taking Elias Cox with me. With carpenter tools to assist in building, one wagon and two horses, loaded with about 1400 lbs. of flour and other provisions, leather boots, shoes, dry goods, groceries, etc.
December 8, 1864: Arrived at St. George, having been previously requested by Pres. Erastus Snow to devote energy and assistance there if I was willing to do so, after seeing the place. I told Br. Snow before I started from home that as I had always heard that St. George was about the hardest place in "Dixie" I would see St. George before starting and I acted accordingly. I looked about for several days, endeavoring to obtain a lot on which to operate. Had several offers at enormous prices. Finally I bought a lot from Bro. John Lang, for which I paid him $280. It was as poor as poverty itself. Contained less than one acre of land. There was on the lot an adobe corral with rock foundation which I used in part for building material, also a few small peach trees, and a very few grape vines. I engage 700 (hundred) feet of lumber and left Elias Cox with means to the amount of $180, exclusive of the rock and adobe, to proceed to building a small house.
December 17, 1864: I started for home (as St. George was a hard place to keep a team) intending to arrange my business reload and return during the winter.
January 14, 1865: I bought two city lots in St. George from G. W. Bankhead for $130 on which I had to pay about $30 more for expenses that had accrued. I had on my first trip bought about $30 worth of fruit trees of various kinds from Bro. B. F. Pendleton to be set out on my lot at the proper time, and as I could not consistently be there in good time to plant the trees, I wrote to Bro. Pendleton to have them set in good order at the right time.
May 3, 1865: Started for St. George, loaded pretty much as at the first trip. Some more dry goods arrived on the 14th all right. On my arrival I found my lot in a flourishing condition, trees all set and growing nicely.
May 3 [sic], 1865: To my disappointment, I found that Elias Cox had left the country and had made little progress in building. I soon contracted with a mason (Bro. E. Parry) to put up a small house, also engaged a sufficient quantity of lumber from Bros. Cragun, Foster and Moody. Also engage Bro. Isaiah Cox to do the carpenter work, and paid them mostly in advance, as they needed the pay and I had it on hand. In two months the house was completed.
May 22, 1865: Left St. George for home. Brought four passengers, for which they paid me $38 in gold coin. Found all well, and my little crop which I planted before I left home. Arrived on the 31st of May.
August 15, 1865: At the request of Pres. Young I gave him a written detail of my labors and expenitures [sic] in St. George, and on the 31st. day of August I received by mail the following approval from him.
After receiving the above from President Brigham Young I employed Bro. B. F. Pendleton to take charge of my business at St. George and directed him to fill my lot with choice varieties of grapes and other fruit, which was done in the ensuing spring, also to add other improvements such as fencing etc. and thus use all the income of rents without other means.
October 14, 1865: I donated $20 to the St. George Hall. (This fall I built a good adobe barn with granite foundation and good floor and roof). Completed November 1.
REFERENCESSilas Richards entry in the
LDS Biographical Encyclopedia
by Andrew Jenson
Volume 2, Page 327
Silas Richards entry in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia
with the Union Ward East, Jordan Stake entry from the Encyclopedic History of the Church, pp.898-899
and the History Of Union Fort Cemetery
Information on the Silas Richards Company crossing of the plains in 1849
"Silas Richards-Pioneer 1849."
In Our Pioneer Heritage, compiled by Kate B. Carter, 15:109-17.
Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1972.
Family Group Sheet for Augustus & Frances Lee Doggett Richards and Their Children
Family Group Sheet for Silas & Elizabeth McClanahan Richards and Their Children
Family Group Sheet for Silas & Keziah Frances Brady Richards and Their Children